In the five years between their last album, From Hell to Texas, and Up the Dosage, out today on SPV, Nashville Pussy have kept busy, with band co-founders and husband and wife guitarists Ruyter Suys and Blaine Cartwright continuing to run their own label, Slinging Pig. The band recruited a new, female bass player, Bonnie Buitrago, during the gap between the two albums, keeping the half-and-half balance of testosterone and estrogen in the whiskey and Coke-drinking cocktail with Suys, Cartwright and drummer Jeremy Thompson. Up the Dosage moves past the cartoon art album imagery to a basic, unadorned lightning bolt signifying a more mature movement in the band. The music, however still encapsulates punk speed, instrumental consistency and the most diverse stylistic song composition to date. In an interview with Suys, she spoke about the new album, her relationship with Blaine as the backbone of the band and their “drug bust” arrest in Tennessee. Cartwright also answered a few questions on his Southern Baptist upbringing, and how his views weave into writing lyrics.
Your last release From Hell to Texas was in 2009, so what has Nashville Pussy been up to in the last 4 to 5 years?
Ruyter: We tour incessantly, as you may know. On top of constant touring, Blaine and I have a little record label called Slinging Pig Records we [started] in the last four years and also put out four records. We’ve done a bunch of recording for Nine Pound Hammer, which is the band he had when I first met him. He started a whole new band called Kentucky Bridgeburners, and we put out their debut album, Hail Jesus, on Slinging Pig. Also in this time, I joined this crazy metal comedy band called Dick Delicious and the Tasty Testicles. I think we had a few months off and these guys asked me to play on their record and I said “yeah” because they are one of my favorite bands. I joined them just to record a couple of songs and they were like “holy sh*t, this is great” so they asked me if I wanted to join the band. The band never does anything, they never tour. I just said “yeah, I’ll join your crap, great, stupid band” and then wanted to tour and got all excited. They put out a record and got me on the entire album and we did two tours with Dick Delicious. So we got crazy busy. This was one of the many reasons why we took our time recording the new Nashville Pussy album.
The album art for Up the Dosage seems very different from all your other albums. Why did you decide to go this direction?
I guess part of it is that we’ve already done that cartoon thing a couple of times and I think we’ve been out there long enough that everyone knows what Nashville Pussy is all about. Visually, we’re kind of an over-the-top, party band. Most people already know that so we didn’t need to stick our faces on it anymore. I hate to use the word “serious,” but there is something a little more serious about this album. We’re still singing about partying and having a good time, but there’s something a little more “mature” about it.
Who did the vocals on “Taking It Easy?” Why was the song so short?
That’s me. It’s a song from that cartoon Metalocalypse and it’s a song that Murderface and Toki play. The characters wanted it on the new Dethklok album and they bring it to the band. It’s only 46 seconds long in the cartoon and of course the band hates it. Murderface says “This is going to be the new Planet Piss single” and storms out of the room. Me and Bonnie, our bass player, are massive Dethklok fans and we were playing it with our sound manager in sound check and were just screwing around. When we got in the studio, we were trying to get our drummer Jeremy to play it and he didn’t really want to do it. I got him to play it and made our manager hit record and that was about it. Unlike the Dethklok version, my version actually got to be on the record. In your face, Murderface.
I loved “Hooray for Cocaine, Hooray for Tennessee.” It’s very non-traditional Nashville Pussy. It sounds like it would fit in with “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.” What was the inspiration behind this type of country rock song? Will you perform it live? Were any of you actually in jail in Tennessee because of drugs?
We borrowed Andy Gibson’s steel guitar for that one. We actually go way back with Jesco and the whole White clan. I don’t know if we will perform it live, it would be a lot of fun. That song comes more from Blaine’s other bands Nine Pound Hammer and Kentucky Bridgeburners, and more along their lines with adding mandolin. It sounded natural when we did it in the studio for Nashville Pussy to add our own distinct twist to it. Blaine is constantly coming up with outrageous lyrics. I don’t know where he gets it.
Blaine did go to jail in Tennessee. We still get real nervous when we drive through this one little town. We’ve written maybe two songs inspired by that event. I wrote “Ain’t Your Business” for the last album, and then this one, which is Blaine’s version of it. I remember at the time I talked to him while he was in jail and said he could use this as a song. He said “f*ck that, I never want to remember this again. This is never happening again.” There’s a line in “Ain’t Your Business” where he traded chicken biscuit crackers for a cigarette and that’s actually true. That was some of the bartering going on in the room. He’s definitely used his experience as much as possible. Blaine has an impressive mug shot and he looks angry as hell in it.
The whole arrest was total bullshit. He had gone to sleep in the van that was being driven by two roadies. I think he had a gig with Nine Pound Hammer and they were driving to a gig. They may have been carrying something, maybe, or maybe not, but they never saw it. The cops swore that they found cocaine and Blaine said “there is nothing in this van” and they pulled him over. We never saw it and never got a straight story from anyone so it was this total mystery. It like was an Andy Griffith story. Like someone knew his judge and the judge’s brother was the court clerk and basically money was exchanged and everyone was happy and they just went fishing. Like “OK, it’s done.”
Blaine: I had never even been to jail, and luckily those charges were dropped. It ended making me cautious and cost about $6,000. It made me calm down; it wasn’t my drugs or anything. Going to jail was not that big of a deal, but untangling everything and getting out of the situation was just horrible. It was not my fault in the least. It happened in June. Me and Ruyter had an extra $10,000, more than what my bills cost. We had the whole summer off and it was great to go party and go to baseball games. That arrest happened in the first week of summer. I made the best of that experience. There’s an old song called “T for Texas” by Jimmie Rodgers and that’s what I was singing in my head and wrote that song on the acoustic guitar as a joke. I emailed the members of the band and Eddie Spaghetti from Supersuckers, and Eddie finished it and put a pause and a bridge in it.
In “Till the Meat Falls Off the Bone” the lyrics go “whether I’m praising Jesus or chasing pussy there’s one way I’m going to be.” I know Blaine also has another band – the Kentucky Bridgeburners – that produced a gospel album. Since a lot of Nashville Pussy songs have a wild humor to them and those lyrics seem so morally contrasting, are the Christian references actually true to Blaine’s beliefs or is it just satire?
It’s a combination. Blaine was raised southern Baptist, but there comes a time when you have to take your own stance. I think he was really young and I think he was into reading the bible for himself and not the Baptist interpretation of it. He had his own reason for believing in Jesus, but he’s not a Bible thumping Christian. He has his own beliefs and admires him as a human and as a man with a message. He does believe a lot of it. He’s a good Kentucky boy. The whole Kentucky Bridgeburners album is gospel. It’s his own version of gospel like Jerry Lewis and Ray Charles did it. Every one of our Southern heroes has done some form of a gospel album. Blaine wanted to do that with Hail Jesus. The next Bridgeburners album won’t be all gospel, but it’s just something he wanted to do. It was definitely something close to his heart.
Blaine: I did a gospel record and I was smoking weed and I was flirting or being a pig or whatever, and over the years I’ve been pretty stoned. That’s one consistent thing I would say and calms me down. I just wrote that about myself. No matter what stage my beliefs are in, I should probably just smoke and calm down whether I’m chasing pussy or praising Jesus.